It’s OK if You Don’t LOVE Your Work

Every time I hear some highly successful person, whether they are business person, movie star, writer, professional athlete, artist or reality TV star say, “You have to love your work”, or “You have to follow your passion”, I get annoyed.

I get annoyed because they are speaking from a position that is available to very few people in the world, and by saying this to everyone generally, they are hurting people. I wrote a blog about this a few years back.

Today, I wanted to address this one point head on.

If you want to be happy in your work, you need to find work that makes you feel happy much of the time. No work will ever make you feel happy 100 percent of the time (and that’s why you get paid).

No one else can tell you what should make you happy. You need to figure that out for yourself, and then organize your work in a way that it does not torture you.

But, you don’t actually need to LOVE your work in order to be happy and succeeding in your life.

Trying to LOVE your work is a bad idea

OK, if you are one of the people who wakes up every morning and says, “I love my work” and you mean it, and you get paid enough money to do what you love — or you don’t need any money, then this blog is not for you. Congratulations. You are one of the very few people for whom this works out. Enjoy it and appreciate it.

I have found that most of these people who end up doing what they love for work usually have had a very clear view of what that would be for their whole life. And they have always had an unusual amount of energy and focus to make it come true.

They find their way to their one true calling because there is no other option for them. They can’t NOT do it.

What about the rest of us? What about those of us for whom the path is not so clear? Most people (of any age) I talk to say they are not sure what they want to be when they grow up.

So when one of these luminaries tells everyone, “You must love your work,” it sets most people up to feel like a failure for not doing this.

If you wake up every morning and think, “I don’t love my work,” the big point I want to make is this: YOU ARE NOT FAILING AT ANYTHING.

There are two kinds of failures I see, and both are totally avoidable once you let go of this notion other people are telling you that you must love your work.

Failure #1 – You ruin a good hobby

I see some people try to take the things they love and do them as a living. It could be art, music, sports, poetry, whatever.

The problem happens when they take this advice to heart and think the only way to be truly successful is to do what they love for a living. So they try. They turn their favorite hobby into their primary job.

Then many fail to make enough money at it — so their life is hard.

And for most people who try this, they also ruin their hobby. Instead of doing it for the pure joy of the hobby, they have instead turned it into something that they actually don’t love anymore by compromising on how they do it to please others instead of themselves, and by adding the responsibility of making it pay.

Failure #2 – You feel like failure no matter what you do

The second type of failure is the one that I think is most common, and most exacerbated by these “you must love your work” advocates. It happens when people who have a good job, make enough money to take care of their family, enjoy their hobbies, and by every measure are doing great.

But they walk around feeling like a failure, thinking,

I am in the wrong job. I should be doing something that I love, but I don’t know what that is or how to do it. So I am doing something wrong. I’m not even good enough to figure out what I should be doing.”

This breaks my heart. You are doing GREAT.

The important thing in life is to LOVE your family, LOVE your friends, and LOVE your hobbies. Focus on the things that bring you joy.

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It doesn’t need to be one earth-shattering thing. It can be a variety of things. Make sure you invest time on these things.

And if you make enough money, you eliminate the major stress in life that comes from not having enough money to live on, and you have money to do many things that you love. You also have the flexibility to explore and potentially find even more new things that you love.

It’s simple: Just LIKE your job

I will say that it also breaks my heart when I see so many people hating their jobs. This was the main reason that I wrote RISE.

There is a really huge space between loving your work and hating your work. Find a good spot in there for yourself.

I wanted to show people how you can really LIKE your job, so that you can also really like your life. It’s miserable to be in a job that is making you miserable.

The secret to liking your job that I talk about in RISE is finding a way of working that suits your natural strengths and energy. When you are working in a role that places demands on your natural strengths and you are working on things that give you energy, it feels great.

You feel like superhero when you are doing a great job, it is being recognized, and you are not killing yourself to do it. You end up feeling, “I really like my job”.

I should really like my job,” is a much better goal than “I need to love my work.”

No one cares about your career as much as you

No one cares about your happiness as much as you. If you are willing to do thankless, unhappy work that someone needs done, no one will ever ask you to stop. You need to be the one to advance your own career.

When I talk about advancing your own career, I talk about finding the intersection of your natural strengths, the things that give you energy, and what your company values — and then creating a business case so that your company wants you to do that.

That’s the “DO better” part in RISE. Then if you also add building your credibility to “LOOK better,” and building your network of support to “CONNECT better,” you can join the ranks of truly successful people who are succeeding and being recognized in a great job that they really like, which allows them to have a great life that they really like.

If you do all three of these things that I share in RISE, you will get more of what you want in your work and in your life.

This is an approach that is open to all of us, not just for an unusual and lucky few who were clearly drawn to their life’s work all along and have a deep love of doing it.

This was originally published on Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership Blog. Her latest book is Rise: How to be Really Successful at Work and LIKE Your Life.

Patty Azzarello is the founder and CEO of Azzarello Group. She's also an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/business advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35, and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk). You can find her at patty@azzarellogroup.com .

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